Nathaniel Mellors ‘Ourhouse’ @ Institute of Contemporary Arts

Nathaniel Mellors presents Ourhouse at the ICA, his first major solo exhibition in a UK public institution. The show comprises of three video installations, Episodes 1, 2 and 4 from his video series Ourhouse (2010-) and the animatronic sculpture Hippy Dialectics (Ourhouse) 2010, which are accompanied by a series of weekly music events, film screenings and talks.

With influences by Pasolini’s Teorema (1968), Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), Beckett and the Theatre of the Absurd, Ourhouse portrays Mellors’ keen interest in the complex relationship between linguistic control and power, speech manipulation and absurdism; all appearing through the form of a TV drama series. The story of Ourhouse involves the eccentric bourgeois household of Maddox-Wilson family living in a mansion in the English countryside. The family consists of father Charlie, wife Annalise (aka babydoll), sons Truson and Faxon and handyman Bobby Jobby. This is an upper middle class – but not wealthy anymore – family; Charlie likes to keep the family within the mansion borders protecting them from outside influences. One day the family discovers that a strange visitor has peculiarly appeared in their living room, a visitor who is not identified as a human being by the family members. Each of them bizarrely sees a different entity; this is The Object, which gradually takes control of everyone’s ability to see, say or do. It controls their language, influences and challenges their relationships, slowly consumes and ingests all their books. Mayhem is unavoidable.

Complementing Episodes 1, 2 and 4 is the powerful robotic sculpture Hippy Dialectics, which is cast from the cloned face (joined by its own hair) of father Charlie Maddox-Wilson. We observe the sculpture moving its heads, eyes, mouth, while at the same time we listen to the dialogue between the two; a crescendo of schizophrenia and verbal nonsense.

Mellors has successfully attempted to explore human relations and mental state via a series of key elements that maintain or challenge any form of inner balance within a small social group . By introducing this family (or any other isolated family) to The Object, which with its very own identity and existence is able to take control, we observe the fine line between human communication and relationship. Reality becomes subjective, language loses its strength, control changes hands. The artist demonstrates these results with the invention of the Hippy Dialectics device; a witty man who is now disorientated, is developing a double personality and lives in a vortex of an unknown empty space.
|Kostas Prapoglou